Belarus Free Theatre's

King Lear

February 5 - 14, 2016

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

A World's Stage Production
from Belarus
by William Shakespeare
directed by Vladimir Shcherban
adapted by Nicolai Khalezin

About Belarus Free Theatre

With three Artistic leaders at the helm, Belarus Free Theatre is run by its original founders, husband and wife team Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin, together with director Vladimir Shcherban who brought together the original acting company in 2005. BFT was founded in direct response to the absolute censorship of freedom of expression in Belarus. As one of the most outspoken critics of Belarus’s repressive regime, its founding members had to be smuggled out of the country and have been in exile as political refugees in the UK since 2011.

Over the past decade, Belarus Free Theatre has received international attention for their inextinguishable commitment to challenging the brutality and injustices of dictatorship whilst revealing universal human truths and tackling taboos with unflinching honesty.

BFT is a two-headed beast. In the UK, they are an associate company at the Young Vic Theatre where they create new work with British, Belarusian and international actors. BFT’s founders continue to create and rehearse new work via Skype with the permanent ensemble who are still based in Belarus, as well as training students at BFT’s theatre laboratory, Fortinbras.

Today the troupe are 32 members strong and artists from the UK, US, Nigeria and Australia form part of the permanent ensemble. They are a truly international and courageous company of artists, who train in BFT’s pioneering theatrical method, Total Immersion. Most of them have been threatened, detained and imprisoned by the KGB for their work with BFT but they continue to perform underground in Belarus in secret locations.

Belarus Free Theatre is one of the most acclaimed political theatre companies in the world. They received the French Republic Human Rights Prize for Discover Love and for their outstanding track-record of creating brave, blazingly creative and important theatre in exceptionally difficult circumstances. They also received Special Mention Award at the XII Edition of the Europe Theatre Prize in 2007 for their opposition against the oppression of Belarusian government and for their shows Generation Jeans, Being Harold Pinter and Zone of Silence, proposed by Vaclav Havel, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard.

BFT’s pioneering model of performance-inspired campaigning extends beyond theatre walls, to deepen understanding of the productions’ subject matter and inspire audiences to take a stand. One of the Company’s most significant campaigns was Give a Body Back, an anti-death penalty campaign - directly informed by the play, Trash Cuisine. It was launched in London by Jude Law, and has since been mounted in Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Warsaw, Washington DC and most recently New York.

Belarus Free Theatre has enjoyed the enduring support and solidarity of fellow artists including the late Harold Pinter and Vaclav Havel as well as Sir Tom Stoppard, David Lan, Steven Spielberg, Jude Law, Kevin Spacey, Mick Jagger, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley, Vivienne Westwood, Kim Cattrall, Ian McKellen, Kevin Kline and Samuel West.

Belarus Free Theatre is based at the Young Vic in London where they are an associate company. They are also associate artists at Falmouth University's Academy of Music & Theatre Arts (AMATA) where they produce new shows with actors from Belarus. Further afield, BFT have a long-standing partnership with both the Public Theater and La MaMa in New York.

Belarus Free Theatre is a registered charity. Patrons are Sir Tom Stoppard, Kevin Spacey and Sigrid Rausing. The board of trustees is chaired by David Lan and includes James Bierman, Tania Clark, Maria Miller MP, Samuel West, Michael Attenborough, Jude Law, Alison Stanley and Laura Wade.

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